"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Breaking: NCAA Team Sheet Change

When the NCAA came out with the Quadrant system, it was designed to make game analysis more transparent. Instead of simply looking at top-50 or top-100 wins & sub-300 losses, it took into account where games were played. There were four categories created. These were the criteria for the original Quadrants based on location and the ranking (RPI in 2018, NET in 2019) of the opponent played:

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 136-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161+, Neutral 201+, Away 241+

On January 20, 2019, the NCAA divided Quadrants 1 and 2 into two further classifications. While everyone else was watching the NFL Conference Championship games, I happened to be looking at NCAA Team Sheets (because that's just what I do for fun) & noticed this change. The Team Sheets do not have any different named classification for the Quadrant divisions, but there are clear divisions on the team sheets as well as numerically defined criteria that divide the top two Quadrants. As the NCAA didn't give them names, I have labeled them A & B. Here are the new criteria, with the changes exclusive to the first two Quadrants:

Quadrant 1A: Home 1-15, Neutral 1-25, Away 1-40
Quadrant 1B: Home 16-30, Neutral 26-50, Away 41-75
Quadrant 2A: Home 31-55, Neutral 51-75, Away 76-100
Quadrant 2B: Home 56-75, Neutral 76-100, Away 101-135

The bifurcation of the first two Quadrants into A & B games could be very significant, especially when it comes to analyzing high-major to mid-major teams for NCAA Selection.

When I'm looking at a resume, I place a little extra value on top-30 wins when evaluating teams. The reason for that is because going into January 20, when you defeat a top-30 team, that game is going to be Quadrant 1 no matter where it is played. It doesn't matter if you play NET #28 Villanova at the Pavilion, in Orlando, or on your home floor, you know that will be a Quadrant 1 game.

By dividing Quadrant 1 into an A & B classification, the only teams that meet the Quadrant 1A criteria are top-15 teams. Further, getting Q1A road wins becomes more difficult because there are fewer teams that are in that category & they are concentrated into a smaller number of conferences.

Currently, 80% of the teams that meet that Quadrant 1A classification on any court come from just four leagues. The ACC, Big 10, Big 12, & SEC make up 12 of the top 15 teams. The other three teams are Gonzaga, Houston, & Buffalo. That means teams in the Big East, Pac-12, & all other conferences have zero remaining opportunities for Q1A wins at home as the NET is currently configured. But it's not just the home games where that stands out. If you include the Big East and Pac-12 as the two other generally recognized high-major conferences, 82.5% of the road game opportunities for Q1A games are in those top six leagues. Just 7 of the top-40 teams reside outside those top six leagues, as opposed to 17 of the teams in the 41-75 range.

What that means is teams outside the top six leagues in college basketball just saw more than a 70.8% reduction in the number of teams that qualify as being potential opponents in the highest recognized category on the NCAA Team Sheets. While this could have an adverse affect on teams in the Big East (who now have zero home opportunities at Q1A wins & just two road opportunities at Q1A wins, at Marquette & Villanova) it could potentially be even more damaging to teams in leagues that don't generally put more than 1-2 teams in the tournament.

There are two other changes to the sheet. The NCAA added the future schedule, breaking games down into the Quadrants in which they will appear, and also added the dates of both current and future games. The former makes it easy to see just how many (or in Nevada's case, how few) opportunities teams have at quality wins. The latter could be even more significant because it allows an easier reference as to when a team got their best wins. In the past, the NCAA has said they value a win in November just as much as a win in March, but by putting the date on the Team Sheet, it will allow Selection Committee members to more easily consider the notion of the "hot team". For instance, Marquette currently has just two Q1A victories, their home win over Buffalo & the neutral court over Louisville. Now that the team sheets includes "1221" & "1123" as the dates, is it easier to dismiss that because of how long ago the games will have happened when Selection Sunday rolls around? And because of the concentration of Q1A opportunities to the top-six leagues, will it potentially diminish the value of those top-tier wins by mid-major schools that earned their best victories with dates in November & December?

It remains to be seen how this will impact selection & seeding, but it's hard to imagine this isn't potentially a very significant development for both as March draws closer.

Nevada comes to mind above all others. Their win at Fresno State was their only Quadrant 1 win, but it is now relegated to Quadrant 1B. They only had one other shot at a Q1 win, at Utah State, which is also a Q1B game. Their seven Quadrant 2 wins have been almost equally divided with 4 in Quadrant 2A & 3 in Quadrant 2B. That simple change makes their resume look even less impressive, & only having one Q1B & one Q2B game left on the schedule means they can't improve on it by much. I still think a 4-loss (3 regular season, 1 MWC tourney) Nevada team will be on the bubble, but now even if they do get in I have to believe this could negatively affect their seeding.

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